As we move closer and closer to the completion of the IG report on how the Trump-Russia investigation was handled, including the probable misuse of the FISA court, we are seeing more relevant Congressional testimony from top officials released.
One session revealed this week involves Trisha Anderson, an FBI lawyer who signed off on the Carter Page warrants. She testified in August of 2018 on her role and what she knew regarding how the process went down.
In her testimony, she alleges that the application process for the FISA warrant was handled in an “unusual” fashion and that numerous Obama era FBI officials were involved at the highest levels in pushing it through.
But Anderson stressed “in this particular case, I’m drawing a distinction because my boss and my boss’ boss had already reviewed and approved this application.” She emphasized “this one was handled a little bit differently in that sense, in that it received very high-level review and approvals — informal, oral approvals — before it ever came to me for signature.”
Normally, a FISA application would go to the legal department first to confirm that it is indeed proper to press forward with. In this case, top officials informally “approved” the application first, signaling to Anderson that her signature was just perfunctory.
Anderson said that FISA approvals are typically “tracked in a linear fashion” and that someone in the Senior Executive Service “is the final approver on hard copy before a FISA goes to the director or deputy director for signature.” She said the Page FISA was approved outside regular procedures.
“Because there were very high-level discussions that occurred about the FISA,” Anderson said she believed that meant “the FISA essentially had already been well-vetted all the way up through at least the Deputy Director [McCabe] level on our side and through the DAG [Yates] on the DOJ side.” Yates had already signed the application by the time it made it to Anderson’s desk.
In other words, things were done completely backwards. Instead of going through the normal checks and balances, a bunch of political appointees at the top approved the application before anyone else got ahold of it. Sally Yates, representing the DOJ, had signed off on it before the FBI’s legal department had even done their analysis.
A major check on fraudulent FISA applications was simply skipped. Anderson stressed that this was not normal.
Anderson stressed that McCabe, Yates, and Baker all played key roles in reviewing the Page FISA. “My approval at that point was really purely administrative in nature. In other words, the substantive issues — the FISA had already substantively been approved by people much higher than me in the chain of command,” Anderson said.
Anderson said it “typically would not have been the case” that people such as McCabe and Yates would sign off on a FISA application before she did.
We also learn that James Baker had personally edited the application.
“The General Counsel [Jim Baker] … personally reviewed and made edits to the FISA, for example,” Anderson said. “The Deputy Director was involved in reviewing the FISA line by line. The Deputy Attorney General over on the DOJ side of the street was similarly involved, as I understood, reviewing the FISA application line by line.”
What all this does is firmly implicate James Comey, Sally Yates, Andrew McCabe, and James Baker. There can be no passing of the buck as they chose to ignore normal procedure and push forward a FISA application in a completely atypical way.
This gives us a clue as to why James Comey and James Baker decided to go on media tours the last few weeks, gnashing their teeth over any possible investigation into their wrongdoing.
I still expect no one to actually be punished here, but the more this stuff is exposed to the American people, the better.